MWG #8 - Minimal Waste Guide
Week 8: MWG 8 - Minimal Waste @Home – Spring Cleaning!
Have you guys done your spring cleaning yet?
If not, instead of getting a variety of chemical cleaning products from the supermarket, try making your own for a change! General purpose cleaners, bathroom cleaners, disinfectants, scouring cleansers, glass cleaners, carpet cleaners, stain removers, toilet bowl cleaners, …, you name it, the list is endless. Most of them are loaded with chemicals that are not only really bad for our water, but also you’re going to touch and eat off all the things you just cleaned with toxic phthalates, perchloroethylene, triclosan, butoxyethanol, etc.
All you really need are five household essentials to DIY pretty much any type of cleaning product (and more)! They’re more environmentally friendly, they’re cheaper, they can usually be purchased in large quantities, packaged in paper or even in zero-waste shops. And of course, try reusing cleaning rags, or repurpose old t-shirts as rags and used toothbrushes instead of buying sponges and single use wipes that can only be used a few times before ending up in the bin.
Citric acid is probably way under your radar, but you almost certainly eat many foods that it's used in, like preserves, candy, and crunchy snacks. It‘s a natural, weak organic acid that is found in many fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits, hence their name. It is the perfect descaling agent. Mix three tablespoons of citric acid powder with one liter of water to dissolve. Treat your stainless steel appliances, kettle and coffee machine and remove built-up limestone easily.
Baking soda is typically a white solid powder. It dissolves readily in water and acts as a weak base. Sodium bicarbonate, sold as baking soda, has a wide variety of household uses. It is an essential aspect of cooking and baking, diminishes odors, can be used for cleaning and even works as a fire extinguisher. Sodium bicarbonate is also a widely used substance in natural medicine to reduce acidity, especially of the stomach. Furthermore, you can use baking soda for DIY toothpaste and deodorant – check out our blogpost on zero waste hygiene
White vinegar, sometimes called distilled or spirit vinegar, has been a mainstay in households worldwide for thousands of years. It has a stronger and somewhat harsher flavor than other types of drinkable vinegar, so you probably wouldn’t want to drink it by itself. White vinegar’s culinary applications include pickling, baking, marinades and cheesemaking. The flavor is strong, so start with small amounts if you’re using it for the first time. And of course, white vinegar can be an effective cleaning tool for multiple household surfaces, such as countertops, bathrooms, toilets, windows and mirrors, … It can also be used to control weeds in your garden or help cut flowers stay fresh.
This soap is neutral and all natural without any additional scents or fats! And it’s the basic ingredient for a variety of homemade laundry detergents, cleaners and personal care products. Typically available in solid form that can be grated for most recipes, or in liquid form.
Similar but not the same as baking soda, this one is called sodium carbonate. Historically it was extracted from the ashes of plants growing in sodium-rich soils. Because the ashes of these sodium-rich plants were noticeably different from ashes of wood, sodium carbonate became known as "soda ash". Washing soda can be used as a substitute for laundry detergent. If there aren’t any tough stains on your clothes, four tablespoons of washing soda should absolutely suffice to make your laundry nice and clean again. Use baking soda instead for materials like wool and silk.
With these five essentials you really don’t need anything else, anymore. Here are some recipes for you to try:
All Purpose Cleaner with Baking Soda
Combine three teaspoons of grated castile soap in 700 ml warm water and heat slowly. Beat with a whisk until all of the soap has dissolved. Cool and add three teaspoons of baking soda and, optionally, a few drops of essential oil like tea tree or eucalyptus. Reuse an old spray bottle and shake before each usage.
All Purpose Cleaner with White Vinegar
Mix 500 ml of white vinegar with 500 ml of water and shake, add a few drops of essential oil like tea tree or eucalyptus if you like. Done!
You can also make a cleaner using citrus peels! and adding them to 500 ml white vinegar. First stuff the peels (approx. 500 g) into a glass jar, then pour 500 ml white vinegar over the peels. Let it sit for two to four weeks. If necessary, add some white vinegar to avoid mold (the peels should always be covered in vinegar).
Simple Scouring Paste
This one really is just mixing baking soda and water to make a thick paste. You can use this for example for your dirty pots and pans, or your oven full of burnt food bits, but also in your bathroom, for tile joints that need cleaning. Let it sit for a bit and scrub!
For approx. 20 tabs, put 300 g of baking soda into a bowl and add three tablespoons of water (not more than that). Using a whisk, mix well. The consistence should be like wet sand. Add 10 to 20 drops of tea tree or eucalyptus essential oil. Only then add 100 g of citric acid powder and mix for 20 seconds. It’s important to keep this order to avoid the chemical reaction between the baking soda and the citric acid. You’ll want that reaction to occur when you put the tab into your toilet. Quickly make small heaps and press them together a bit, or use an ice cube tray to make the tabs. Let them dry, and store in an air-tight container.
Grate 30 g of castile soap and combine with four tablespoons of washing soda, add to a pot. Boil two liters of water in a kettle and pour over the soap/soda mixture. Whisk for a couple of minutes until everything has dissolved. Let it cool for a while and check consistency. If the detergent is a bit firmer, like jello, whisk again until more liquid. If you’d like your laundry to smell especially nice, add 10 to 20 drops of essential oils like lavender or lemon grass. Pour your laundry detergent into bottles. Use about 100 to 200 ml when washing your clothes. If it’s white clothes, add two tablespoons of baking soda to keep them pearly.
Now that we’ve covered all the essentials and some simple recipes for household cleaners, there’s nothing left but grabbing those rags and cleaning away! Hopefully, you’ll like some of our suggestions – let us know on our Instagram! @uvagreenoffice
Photo credits in respective order: Oliver Hale, Monfucs & Daiga Ellaby